By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday disclosed that it must ensure necessary reforms in the Nigerian judiciary to address the slow pace of justice delivery and clear backlog of pending cases.
Chairman of the House committee on judiciary, Hon. Offiong Akpan Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom) disclosed this yesterday at the opening of the inaugural meeting of the committee noted that
He said “there are a lot of reforms to be carried in the judiciary” adding that the House must do all within it powers to ensure that pending backlogs of cases are attended to.
He lamented that the “slow pace of justice delivery and the backlog of matters is a cause for concern. Some matters spend a minimum lifespan of 10 years before their final adjudication at the apex court- Supreme Court.
“Part of this problem is that our legal system allows all matters to travel to the Supreme Court without limit. Not all matters should merit the attention of the apex court.
Luke said, in developed democracies like the United States “only constitutional and important matters reach the Supreme Court. General matters are handled by trial and appellate courts based on the precedents set by the Supreme Court. We will have to reconsider our laws to ensure that we do not overburden the Supreme Court, hence slowing down the pace of justice”
“We need to continually advocate and protect the independence of our judiciary so that our judges will be bold and firm to dispense justice without fear and favour. By our laws, our judges are not allowed to speak freely. We hold our judiciary, and by extension, the people, a duty to speak up for the welfare of the judiciary”.
“There a lot of reforms to be carried in the judiciary. The Committee, in synergy with relevant bodies and stakeholders like the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, the judiciary itself, civil society organisations, proposes to invigorate the judiciary for effective performance and quick, efficient justice delivery to the common man. It is my desire to work with every member of the Committee in repositioning the judiciary and addressing the challenges confronting it.
“In the coming days, the Committee will develop a work plan that aligns with the House Legislative Agenda recently unveiled by the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, which will operate as a guide for the Committee”.
He said “Cognizant of the all-important role of the judiciary, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 in section 6 established the judiciary, made it independent and conferred the courts with judicial powers.
“The power so conferred extends, inter alia, to all matters between persons and government, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person”.